What Are the Different Types of Shipping Containers That Exist Today?

Types of Shipping Containers

Types of Shipping Containers

According to the OECD, around 90% of consumer goods travel inside shipping containers at some stage.

Despite the many uses for shipping containers, the design has hardly changed since Malcolm McLean invented them in 1956.

There’s more to shipping containers than first meets the eye, though. Keep reading for more about the types of shipping containers in circulation today.

Standard Shipping Containers

Dry storage containers are widely used in the shipping industry.

They’re ideal for transporting all kinds of cargo. These include dry goods, appliances, and even motor vehicles.

Most road haulers can transport these standard 10-, 20-, and 40-ft lengths. You’ll need a heavy-duty shipping container transport company for the larger versions.

Some of these containers also have extra side doors or openings on both sides for easier access.

Flat rack containers are a type of dry storage container that has collapsible sides. This is the best cargo container for large items since they allow top- as well as side-loading.

Flat rack containers are usually 20- or 40-feet long.

Open-top containers are also great for these kinds of loads since they have no top panel. A securely fastened tarpaulin keeps everything in place during transit.

These containers aren’t stackable, so they’re only suited to road transport.

Temperature-Regulated Shipping Containers

There are two container types used for transporting temperature-sensitive cargo. These are:

Refrigerated ISO Containers (Reefers)

These shipping containers maintain a constant low temperature. That’s thanks to an electrically-powered cooling unit.

They’re like large, mobile fridges.
 Reefers are the best shipping containers for frozen or chilled goods, like fruits and vegetables. They can’t freeze items in transit, only maintain them at their original temperature.

Thermal or Insulated Containers

These containers protect cargo from extreme temperature changes while in transit. They’re mostly used to transport non-food items like biological materials, electronics, and pharmaceuticals.

Compressors keep the temperature consistent inside the container, regardless of the temperature outside.

Specialized Types of Shipping Containers

Finally, there are a few types of containers that vary a little from the norm. These include:

Car Carriers

Car carriers have collapsible sides for easy loading of automobiles. They’re designed to suit standard-sized vehicles for a snug fit and less risk of damage in transit.

Half-Height and High Cube Containers

Half-height containers are best for transporting things like coal and stones over short distances. A low center of gravity means they don’t become top-heavy when transporting heavy loads.

High cube containers are about a foot higher than regular containers. They’re designed to accommodate tall, bulky items.

They have a recess at the front. This helps center them on a specialized goose-neck chassis during transport.

These non-standardized containers don’t comply with ISO requirements. They have reinforced bottoms and convertible tops.

Swap Body Containers

They can attach to either a truck or a railcar as needed, but have no upper corner fittings. This means they’re limited to land-based shipping.

Versatile Shipping Containers

With all these different types of shipping containers, manufacturers can ship almost anything, near or far. They’re also versatile enough to repurpose for housing, storage, and even swimming pools.

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